Sharks should not rush to pull trigger on Plumtree

Aphelele Fassi of scored a disallowed try for the Sharks against the Lions on Saturday. | BackpagePix

Aphelele Fassi of scored a disallowed try for the Sharks against the Lions on Saturday. | BackpagePix

Published Mar 4, 2024


Aphelele Fassi of scored a disallowed try for the Sharks against the Lions on Saturday. | BackpagePix

Mike Greenaway


Judging by comments on social media, there could be a picket of protesters outside the Shark Tank this morning demanding change.

But while I feel the pain of Sharks fans depressed by results, change for the sake of change is only going to make matters worse. The reality is that there is a bigger picture at the Sharks that is in the process of changing and panic sacking of individuals would be silly.

What the Sharks need right now is stability in their structures, common sense in their recruitment, and the backing of John Plumtree to get the job done, and he will if he is allowed to complete his three-year vision of change.

It wasn’t that long ago that Sean Everitt, a very good coach, was shown the door — he is prospering at Edinburgh, by the way — after an effective Currie Cup team lost heavily to Cardiff. This was because the Sharks were so top-heavy with Springboks that when they were called up to national duty, the backup players were found wanting.

The single biggest problem facing the Sharks over the last five years or so has been haphazard, random recruitment, but this is changing with Plumtree and director of rugby Neil Powell having a greater say in who comes and goes, a luxury that Everitt was rarely afforded.

Plumtree has said he inherited a roster of players and that he is working his way through the list, separating the wheat from the chaff. He has implored the public to give him time to build a team and, most importantly, the right culture to underpin it. His wish must be granted.

Plumtree also needs consistency with those around him. Here is a statistic that will raise eyebrows — the Sharks have had 34 different assistant coaches over the last 10 years. How do the workers build a solid foundation when each season there are different foremen in charge?

At the Stormers, John Dobson has had Dawie Snyman as his assistant for 14 years. He has a right-hand man that he trusts – a confidant and a sounding board.

Plumtree recently told the media that he has been “getting to know the players and the coaches” since his arrival last July. Every successful coach has a trusty lieutenant and Plumtree currently doesn’t have what Dobson has.

I think the Sharks missed a trick by not courting Plumtree’s old assistant from his first tenure at the Sharks, Grant Bashford, to join him for his comeback.

Looking at the weekend’s game, there was an experimental look to the team Plumtree picked. I understand why. The URC has been dead for the Sharks for ages, so why not look at options given that the big one for the Sharks now is the Challenge Cup?

They have an excellent chance of winning it and if that happens at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in May, the bloodthirsty fans calls calling for heads will have long forgotten the 40-10 defeat to the Lions.

This reminds me of the new-look Springbok combination Jacques Nienaber picked for the match against Wales in Bloemfontein in June 2022, and look what happened in France a year later.

Also, I am going to buck the trend and suggest the Sharks were not as bad at Ellis Park as many have said.

Firstly, not enough respect is being given to a Lions team that is very tough at home. Secondly, the Sharks were trying but — and I hate to say this — it was a forgettable afternoon for the officials.

For example, I cannot understand why the same TMO who disallowed Apehele Fassi’s try because Ntuthuko Mchunu had transgressed at a ruck could not pick up that Sanele Nohamba dropped the ball before scoring his excellent solo try.

I’m not nit-picking, the Sharks did not get the rub of the green and this is important when a team is short on confidence.